Thursday, January 1, 2015

Food safety vigilance-Picking samples itself is news!

India is supposed to have a very "strong" "food safety act" as per the claims of the government and it is under this act that a top heavy Authority called FSSAI was set up. The obvious purpose of creating this bureaucratic organization is to keep "vigilance" over the food materials made and marketed across the country. Its power has further been increased by including liquor also among the basket of food products coming under its purview! What does "vigilance" mean? According to dictionary definition it is the "state of keeping careful watch for possible dangers or difficulties" and therefore FSSAI is supposed to be keeping an eye over thousands of products made in the country to ensure their quality and safety! Is this organization is up to the responsibility cast on it or it is more interested on photo-op actions meaning nothing to the harassed citizens of the country. Reading the following PR oriented report from this Authority"s Pune office what type of impression one can derive? Read it and decide for yourself!

"The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials collected samples of prepared food items and liquor from various hotels in Pune on Wednesday to assess the quality of food and liquor served in the city for New Year celebrations. "We asked our 20 food safety officials to each draw at least two samples of prepared food items and liquor from various hotels and restaurants in Pune on December 31. Around 40 samples were collected till late midnight which will be tested to check whether they conform to all parameters of safety and quality at Public Health Laboratory," said Shashikant Kekare, joint commissioner (food), FDA, Pune.  A week back, the food safety officers also drew six samples of liquor and sent the samples to laboratory for tests. "The reports are awaited. The aim is to ensure that the liquor sold in Pune conforms to specified quality and standard norms," Kekare said.  The samples of foreign liquor, Indian Made Foreign Liquor and country liquor were subjected to quality tests during a six-day drive. "The drive was primarily aimed at ensuring that all kinds of alcoholic beverages sold in Pune are not adulterated as sale of alcohol usually increases during this time of the year," he said. Last year's samples of alcoholic beverages that were collected were found conforming to the quality standards. The samples were tested at the state-run public health laboratory, he added. There is a perceptible rise in the sale of country liquor in city's slums and rural parts during the New Year celebrations. Hence, our officers had also drawn samples from country liquor outlets as well, Kekare said. The Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, which came into effect on August 5, 2011, looks at various aspects of alcohol adulteration and divides them into various segments like substance or quality demanded, extraneous but harmless matter, misbranded items and unsafe for consumption.  "Since alcohol has now been classified as food, samples will be subjected to quality tests to ensure that the liquor meets FDA standards. We have to ensure that the quality is genuine and it is free of solvents that are injurious to health," said Shivkumar Kodgire, assistant commissioner (food), FDA, Pune." 

It talks about a "six day drive" to "collect" samples and "sending' them for testing! Does this mean that out of 365 days in an year only such special drives are taken up, rest of the year being "holidays" for the officials? Is this their concept of market vigilance? Since every drive in the country taken up by government agencies is an organized "event' lot of advanced publicity must have been given through the media and what one can expect from them? Are the makers of unsafe foods going to oblige the Authority by being a "sitting duck", waiting for the officials to come and nab them? In stead of doing their work silently, efficiently and honestly, they give wide publicity about their campaign, call the media to boast about picking samples for sending to test laboratories, a ridiculous action to seek publicity. It was rather curious that the food safety officials are more concerned about safety of liquor products than common foods which are adulterated widely with serious health consequences! Does this report instill any confidence in the minds of a layman regarding the intentions of the government vis-a-vis safety of foods consumed by him three times a day every day in the year? Sad and tragic are the only two words to express after reading the above report! As some one said recently, God only can save the citizens of this country from the food fraudsters lurking around ever ready to make a fast buck through criminal and devious means by exploiting the weak kneed and indifferent response from the government to their nefarious activities!


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